Watonga coach Zac Maynard is feeling good about his program as he enters his fourth season at the helm.
Maynard has taken the Eagles to two playoffs berths in his three-year tenure, including a 6-5 record a year ago.
“I would say we are getting the culture in the right place,’’ Maynard said. “It is getting easier because everybody knows me and has only been coach by me. They know me and what makes me tick.’’
Maynard, at 26 still one of the youngest head coaches in the area, said it may take a few games to tell how hard-nose the Eagles will be this season.
“I don’t know,’’ said Maynard when asked about his team’s strengths. “We’ll see. Give me a couple of games and I will be able to tell you. A lot of it is just being young. We will have a lot of new faces. We’re young but we have some talent.’’
Maynard said the Eagles are evenly distributed among sophomores, juniors and seniors.
“A lot of it is just staying healthy and playing some tough football,’’ he said. “Getting into the playoffs last season gives us a little momentum going into this year.’’
Maynard said despite the pandemic the Eagles had a good summer in the weight room and made progress over the off-season.
The Eagles are one of the few teams that still run a version of the Wishbone offense. However, Watonga will have some spread offense as well.
The option can be advantageous when playing teams who haven’t seen it. The Eagles averaged 28 points in the regular season while allowing 25.7. They scored 40 or more points three times.
“If we have an opportunity to play somebody who hasn’t seen it week to week, it can be an advantage,’’ Maynard said.
Joe Jackson, who rushed for 987 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore is moving from halfback to quarterback.
“That’s where we need him,’’ said Maynard about the move. “He is a good little ballplayer. He wants to be good. He’s a good hard-worker.”
Maynard said Jackson is “looking good’’ running the option but more will be known once the games count.
“We haven’t hit anybody yet,’’ he said. “We’ll see when we get him in there.’’
Jackson’s passing “is not bad,’’ Maynard said.,
“He has the ability to throw it,’’ Maynard said. “It’s hard to tell how well he throws it until game time. I know he can throw it when we need him to in practice.’’
Senior Joe Rinehart, who rushed for 450 yards last season, offers a contrasting running style to Jackson at the other halfback spot.
“He’s just a big (215 pounds) kid who likes contact,’’ Maynard said. “It’s good to have him. He’s a powerful, strong kid.’’
Cale Lorenz, a 185-pound junior, is back at tight end. Kerby Easter, a 240-pound senior tackle, heads the offensive line which will have some holes to fill.
Kyle Brown, a 240-pound senior, is another experienced offensive tackle.
Rinehart, who had 87 tackles and one quarterback sack, is the leader of the defense at linebacker. He plays with the same aggressive style as he does on offense.
“He runs to the ball well,’’ Maynard said. “He is a good gap plugger and a pretty hard-nosed player. He does a good job tracking down the football.’’
Lorenz showed promise at defensive end as a sophomore with 28 tackles.
Senior Aaron Perez will be counted on at both wide receiver and safety. Maynard said he is more of a possession receiver calling him “a good route runner.’’
“He made some good strides this summer,’’ Maynard said.
How well the rest of the Eagles make good strides could determine Watonga’s success.
“We’re optimistic,’’ Maynard said. “Everybody is optimistic at this time of the year. We have some tradition here and that helps.’’
Watonga will be in a challenging district that includes state runner-up Cashion, OBA, Tonkawa, Crescent, OCA and Hinton.
“We’re just excited about the season,’’ said Maynard about the District A-3 race. “We’re just going to play football and do the best we can do each week. I imagine Cashion will be the favorite.’’
The Eagles had an up-and-down season a year ago. They won their first two games (Cordell, 45-16 and Alva, 22-16) before losing to Crossings Christian, 19-18. They beat Crescent 36-6 in Week 4, followed by the loss to Minco and the overtime win over OBA. They fell to Texhoma (20-13) and Cashion (54-14) in Weeks 7 and 8, but finished the regular season on a strong note with wins over Christian Heritage (40-29) and OCA (52-32).
Watonga has been in the playoffs four of the past five years.
WATONGA — District A-3
Sept. 4 — Thomas
Sept. 11 — at Hobart
Sept. 18 — at Rush Springs
Sept. 23 — Minco
Oct. 2 — Cashion
Oct. 9 — at OBA
Oct. 15 — Tonkawa
Oct. 23 — at Crescent
Oct. 30 — OCA
Nov. 2 — at Hinton
Head coach, Zac Maynard, 4rd season, record 17-16